Friday, February 05, 2010

Toyota, The DipSh** and What Can Be Learned From Them Both

It was shortly after I started my second venture, I reluctantly agreed to bring a former sales rep back on staff to help us build awareness and to generate some buzz for the new company.  The fact he was referred to as former should have been a strong indication that he should have stayed that way but my excitement for the new company and a pressing need to build the business (and some cash flow) quickly overshadowed my judgment.  He had been a strong producer before, despite personal issues that eventually lead him to leave originally, and I suspected he would be again.

To be fair this rep was aggressive.  He could cold call a ton of companies in a day and generally uncovered some good opportunities.  At the time it was what our start up really needed.  However, in his aggressiveness he was often-times a bit abrupt - hell outright abrasive was more like it.  And as you can imagine this rubbed more than a few people the wrong way.  Not an image or impression I wanted to make for my fledgling company.

One day this rep cold called an alternative health medical office.  After apparently trying in vein to speak to the office manager (they had a great gatekeeper) he apparently left in a huff.  As he exited the building his cell phone rang - it was a friend calling.  Well this dipsh** decides to recount to his friend what a piece of work this lady had been - "denying me can you believe it?"  He called her an unflattering name that I won't repeat here (hell my dad's going to be annoyed enough that I am using dipsh** in this post already - sorry dad) and apparently railed on her and their company pretty darn good.

So at this point you can likely see the Ripple coming. The bad Ripple that is.

Apparently the office manager (which as it turned out was also the main doctor in the facility) he had hoped to meet with had an office overlooking the parking lot and being it was nice spring day had her window wide open on the second floor. guessed it!  She heard everything this dipsh** (I am being kind as just recalling this story still makes my blood boil) had said.  She went charging out to her reception area and asked if said dipsh** left a card which of course he had.  She then proceeded to call my company looking to speak with the owner.

As I watched the events of this Toyota fiasco unfold these past few weeks I am somehow drawn back to the time when the phone at my desk rang.  Without going into too much detail let's just say I had a huge gut check moment and realized that no amount of business nor cash flow could allow me to compromise my values - the platform I hoped to build and grow my business on.  I also knew at that this was one of those defining moments;  I could either run for the closet and hide or I could accept full responsibility for what had taken place.  I was to blame more so than dipsh** was after all he was always a dipsh** and I knew this when I rehired him.

Like with Toyota I was faced with a couple of paths forward I could take:

1. I could placate her and tell her something would be done to fix the problem but in the end do nothing.  And hope in vein that he didn't "wreck" any more business opportunities for me.

2. I could have apologized but made excuses that that's the way it is with that guy and promise to never send him to their office again.  Ultimately solving nothing.

3. I could have been like a lot of business owners, Corporate CEO's and politicians - sell her a line of b.s. but simply ignore this one incident because in the grand scheme of things it was only one complaint versus a bank of business he was starting to bring in.  In other words - be greedy.

I could have taken any one of those paths but I didn't.  I came clean to my detriment and laid myself and my company on the sword.  At that point I had no idea how many other incidents had occurred that I just hadn't heard about.  If you run a company this should be one of those things that keep you up at night by the way - what you don't hear.

I had no choice but to do the following:

1. I admitted our mistake and took full responsibility for the incident.
2. I asked for her forgiveness.
3. I opened the Kimono and shared with her a little about me, my company and my apparent lack of judgment when I rehired someone I already knew to be temperamental at best.  Another apology followed.
4. I then shared with her what I was going to do to fix this problem.  She liked my water boarding idea immensely but we both agreed maybe committing a felony wasn't the best course of action.
5. I had the rep call her and apologize.  She gave him a real ass chewing which was fun to watch.  Even dipsh**s squirm when they are called on the carpet.
6. I demanded he change his ways and think about the consequences of his actions. (His arrogance and his overconfidence in the company's need to keep him in the end became his downfall.  I fired him a week later.)
7. I asked for a meeting with the clinic's entire staff so that I could personally apologize to each and every one of them. A gesture that was both appreciated and remembered (they ended up doing business with me a month later).  So were the home baked chocolate chip cookies I brought with me as a peach offering.
8. I refused from that day forward to hire anyone that wasn't in alignment with my way of treating prospective customers, customers, staff, vendors and anyone else whom they might come in contact with.  I let every one know from that day forward there was a one-strike rule.  You will never speak ill of anyone - because you never know who's listening.

I built an even better team because this situation helped me realize what kind of business owner I really wanted to be and who I wanted representing me.  And it helped me understand that there's no shortcuts even with a hotshot salesman if they don't emulate the values of the company.  It also made me realize that when problems, issues, mistakes whatever happens you have to face it head on and bring a big spoon because humble piece often comes in big slices.  I think Toyota understands this and I suspect, like with my situation, can and will become a better company for it.

Only time will tell.

Ripple On!!!


Steve Harper aka Mr. Ripple said...

Added Information: I am presently reading Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive by Noah j. Goldstein, Steve J. Martin & Robert B Cailadini. In a chapter called When Is It Right To Admit That You Were Wrong -

"If you've made a mistake, an error in judgment, or a bad decision, you should admit the mistake, immediately followed by an action plan demonstrating that you can take control of the situation and rectify it. Through these actions, you'll ultimately put you yourself in a position of greater influence by being perceived as not only capable, but also honest.

"In sum, the results of this research suggest that if you play the blame game-pointing your finger at external factors rather than at yourself-both you and your organization will likely end up as the losers"

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